The coasts of the Carolinas are an ideal places to be a pirate. The whole area is dotted with barrier islands where a pirate ship can hide, then slip out, attack a passing merchant vessel and run away again.
We actually don’t know that much about Blackbeard. During that time in history record keeping (or standardized spelling for that matter) wasn’t what it is today.
What we can guess is that he was born before about 1690 and that his family may have come from Bristol, England.
Like many Pirates, Teach may have gotten his start as a sailor in the Royal Navy before turning privateer during Queen Anne’s War (he eventually named one of his ships Queen Anne’s Revenge).
In those days, many pirates saw themselves as Robin Hood types, sticking it to the man. (Where the man was the ship owner or captain who had made his life miserable before. This might explain why pirate ships were run like a democracy, with elected rules and captains.)
Teach joined another pirate captain, Benjamin Hornigold (who, in a stroke of irony, eventually became a pirate hunter).
The pirate outfit under Hornigold eventually captured a second boat and became a fleet. By this point, Teach had worked his way up the outfit and was made captain of the second sloop. Then they took on a ship captained by another now-famous pirate, Stede Bonnet.
By the time the pirates of Hornigold’s fleet went their separate ways, that fleet had grown to be 4 boats strong.
After parting ways with Hornigold, Teach captured a merchant vessel, outfitted it with 40 guns and named it the Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Teach then began a two-year reign of terror that would only end with his violent, bloody death.
He was also good at networking, rubbing elbows with notorious pirates such as Israel Hands (his second in command) and Calico Jack Rackham, and organizing an alliance of pirates capable of maintaining a short blockade of Charleston, South Carolina.
By this time he’d collected a flotilla of about 10 ships of varying size under his command, and named himself Commodore.
Despite what movies would have you believe, most pirates (Blackbeard included) didn’t have a chest filled with treasure buried on some deserted island (Blackbeard’s ransom demand in the Charleston blockade was for a chest of medicine).
Merchant vessels usually carried goods that pirates could sell in the colonies. Blackbeard would plunder the goods, take them back to his home in the Outer Banks and sell them.
Blackbeard’s presence appealed to the residents of North Carolina. The colony was poor compared to Virginia, sparsely populated and the residents were spread out. Blackbeard brought with him enough well armed men that they could help repel Native American attacks, and their presence injected trade goods into the local economy.
So the Governor of North Carolina pardoned him and his men, and Blackbeard settled in Bath, then the capital of North Carolina and set up camp near Ocracoke Island, where they could slip out to sea and plunder passing vessels.
But the colonial administrations outside of the Carolinas weren’t quite as benevolent. Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia decided that he’d had enough of Blackbeard and sent two sloops of men under the command of Lieutenant Robert Maynard (Or Leftenant, as he would have been called at this time.) to deal with the infamous pirate. Technically the Governor of Virginia was invading North Carolina to kill a man who had already been pardoned. But eh. The laws are more like guidelines when dealing with piracy, anyway.
The sloops caught up with Blackbeard and his crew near Ocracoke Island (by this point the Queen Anne’s Revenge had sunk and Blackbeard was using a ship called the Adventure).
All total, Blackbeard had been shot five times and stabbed at least 20. Teach was beheaded, his body thrown overboard and his head hung from the bowsprit.
But that’s not the end of the story.